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Holiday Pet Travel Safety

December 15, 2023

Are you planning to travel over the next few weeks? If so, you’re not alone. According to a study posted on IPX1031, 62 percent of Americans are planning to travel this month. About 38 percent are going to a nearby state, while 12 percent will be traveling internationally. The remaining 50 percent are split between going across the country and staying in their home state. Quite a few of our furred and feathered pals will also be hitting the road with their humans: data from American Pet Products shows that roughly 78% of American pet owners travel with their furred (or feathered) friends each year. Some pets love going on adventures! Others? Not so much. Either way, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind when planning those trips. A local Des Moines, IA vet offers some helpful insight on traveling with pets in this article.

Should I Travel With My Pet?

Before booking your pet a plane ticket, it’s important to consider what’s right for them. Think about their comfort and safety. While it’s certainly true that many pets are happiest when they’re with their humans, that doesn’t mean they enjoy traveling. Many of our furry friends get very stressed out by things like schedule disruptions, commotion, travel, and changes. You’ll want to consider your pet’s age, size, health, and personality. Also, think about what your plans are when you reach your destination. Will you have the time and room your pet needs? Is the area risky for them in any way?

You’ll also want to consider your pet’s age. Animals that are under 8 weeks old shouldn’t travel long distances. Nor should they be left alone: boarding or getting a petsitter is the best option here. Senior pets may also be both safer and more comfortable at home or with a sitter.

Consider Restrictions Before Traveling With Your Pet

Your destination should also factor in. Pets from hot climates may be very uncomfortable in cold areas, while snow dogs may absolutely hate that tropical heat and sunshine you’re longing for. Weather isn’t the only thing to consider, though. You’ll want to look into potential hazards at your destination, and find out if your vet recommends any additional vaccines. If you’re headed to a cabin in the woods, your canine buddy may benefit from being vaccinated for Leptospirosis. Headed to the desert? A rattlesnake vaccine may not be a bad idea.

Have An Emergency Plan

Safety should always come first when planning anything for your furry friend. It’s important to familiarize yourself with local plants and critters that may be dangerous. Aside from that, we also recommend saving a list of veterinarians in the area, including an emergency clinic.

Keep Your Pet’s Records With You

Depending on where you are going, you may need to provide proof that your pet is current on their parasite control and vaccinations. It’s a good idea to keep copies of those records with you. If you don’t want to carry physical copies, email digital ones to yourself. Or, upload copies to the cloud, so you can access them from anywhere. We’d also recommend adding copies of your pet’s medical history, especially documentation on any issues they may have.

Have Your Pet’s ID Up To Date

We can’t overstate the importance of making sure that your pet is wearing ID tags, which should have current information. Microchips are also crucial. (Tip: make sure that your contact information is correct and up to date in the chipmaker’s database.) You may also want to consider a newer piece of technology: the GPS tag. These are great because they can literally pinpoint a pet’s location. However, you’ll need to do some research on them. Some work with cell towers, while others use satellite technology. There are also various models and tiers for subscription services.

Driving With Pets

In general, we would recommend traveling by car for those who are taking their pets on vacation. This is more comfortable for Fluffy and Fido. You also can control when and where you stop, and for how often. (Our canine pals are also not opposed to exploring new parks and trails. Consider downloading a few apps to help you find new spots to check out with your furry pal.)

There are a few safety considerations with car travel. The biggest thing? Always keep your pet crated for travel. Fido may like sticking his cute snoot out the window, but this is actually quite dangerous. Your pup could get rocks, stones, dust, insects, or even cigarette butts in his face or eyes! He’s also very vulnerable to getting injured if there were an accident, or even if you had to stop suddenly.

Packing  Your Pet’s Medications

Many pets get very nervous about travel. Some even get carsick. If your pet gets very stressed out or uneasy when traveling, ask your Des Moines, IA vet about medications or pet calming products.

Air Travel With Pets

More and more pets are flying the friendly skies these days. However, plane rides can not only be scary for pets: they can even be dangerous. There are quite a few things to consider and factor in when bringing a pet on a plane ride, safety being the most important. 

If possible, travel with your pet in the cabin. This may require buying another seat, but it’s well worth it. You will need to check size and weight restrictions first, however.

In some cases, you may not be able to bring your pet into the cabin with you. We would advise checking with your vet before allowing your pet to travel in the cargo compartment. While pets do fly in cargo holds daily, it’s not a very comfortable experience for them. Many of those holds are unheated, which means your furry friend could get dangerously hot or cold. They won’t be able to relieve themselves, which can add to the discomfort. The noise and vibration is also very scary for many pets. There may also be issues with airflow and air quality. If you have a pet with respiratory issues, or perhaps a brachycephalic pet, avoid having them fly in cargo. Last but not least, we also recommend checking the airline’s rules, regulations, and safety records for pet transport.

When booking air travel, we also recommend using direct flights. This not only minimizes the time your pet will spend in the cargo hold, but also reduces the chances of them being sent to the wrong place. Be sure to notify both the captain and a flight attendant that your pet is on board.


Now for the carrier itself. Choose something that is solid and steady. Make sure it’s sturdy, and will hold together: the last thing you want is for the carrier to fall apart during your trip. Be sure to include some form of ID. You can use mailing labels, and then use clear packing tape to seal it and make it waterproof. You can also use luggage tags.

If you are flying, or even traveling on some buses or trains, you may need to pass a security checkpoint. Have a leash and collar on hand, in case you need to take your pet out of the carrier.


You’ll need to pack a bag for your pet. Include food, toys, treats, wipes or towels, dishes, bedding, toys, a spare leash or tie line, and a pet first-aid kit.  If you aren’t sure whether Fido and Fluffy’s food will be available where you are going, consider ordering some in advance and getting it shipped to yourself.

Conclusion: Pets can—and do—enjoy traveling with their humans. Just be sure to use proper safety precautions, and put your furry pal’s comfort and safety first.Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions about your pet’s health or care. As your local Des Moines, IA animal clinic, we’re here to help!

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